If you hadn’t noticed… (Positives Needs & Hopes) [ARS 5-0 CHE]

‘If you hadn’t noticed’

An Arsenal blog from a coach’s perspective 

Conversation with football friends is for most their favourite part of the experience.

It’s the part I dearly miss living in the hills of Tennessee. I love writing because I love writing but also because there are so many people that jump in the comments and for years we have shared thoughts over email.

I also have converted about 80 Tennessean’s to football. Not the egg kind. They already love that and our local college team fills a 103,000 stadium every home game. You read that correctly.

neyland stadium - Google Search

Most of the converts support Man Utd. There are a few City, Liverpool, West Ham and Palace fans.

I’ve also taught them British banter. I tried to help them understand that there are better songs than ‘Fight and win,’ as they don’t understand the humour in our player songs. Didn’t work but at least EllieAnn and Max get it.

They all watch it religiously and are quite well informed. The coverage here is unreal. Every game for every PL team is available plus almost every game from all the other competitions.

They’ve all watched Arsenal this season enough to have an opinion but they don’t understand why we are so good. They can see we are good but can’t explain it.

I think that those that watched us thrash Chelsea now have a clue.

Arsenal and Chelsea are similar sized clubs with similar ambition. The difference right now is stark but shouldn’t be.

To be fair, Chelsea were dangerous and more dangerous than almost anyone that has played at the Emirates this season. Yet still their players were given the absolute run around and their billion dollar midfield must be dizzy.

These compliments aren’t just mine though. I talked to a bunch of these fans I speak of after the game.

This first thought came from a Utd fan.

“How do you catch Arsenal out of shape? If you want score on them you have to wait for a mistake that isn’t coming or score one of those very rare goals where everybody agrees that there was nothing they could do.”

Liverpool fan…

“I’ve never seen a team so organized. Ever.”

Utd fan…

“”They all cover for each other and they don’t even have to communicate. They just do it. They are so hard to stop because the goals can come from everyone bar Raya.”

Palace fan…..

“Odegaard is a video game.”

City fan….

“Did you see how hard Cucurella was trying and he still couldn’t stop Saka?”

Spurs fan….

“Not sure you need a new striker”

Utd fan….

“I can’t watch Arsenal. It’s too painful. You are everything we aren’t. You are going to kill us at Old Trafford”

Or my favourite from a Chelsea fan…

“Arsenal are as if they play football for a living.”

That last one should never be said. These players earn far too much money and this should be a given. We are all sinners though and so we act on emotion. Chelsea gave their players a reason to be complacent and/or give less when they decided to sign everybody in Europe and handed out 8 year contracts. That’s asking for trouble in a world of greed.

Arsenal are now the model for a professional football club. The way they act and play but most importantly how they trust.

The owners trust those running the club. Those running the club trust the coach who is such a talented and convincing leader that the players, all of them, trust his strict standards. When one leaves his zone he is covered without needing communication even though I’m sure they still talk. The consistency in effort is better than any team I have seen in my football watching life. When was the last time we conceded out of a lack of effort?

The box is defended as if it is Buckingham Palace and the understanding that not every moment is an opportunity to score is protected with the patience of Job. My favourite moment of the game (apart from the goals) was watching 8 Arsenal players hustling back into our box in the last minute. One Chelsea player was in the box. Sums up the attitudes of the two teams.

I think the thrashing of Chelsea and the fact that it could’ve easily have been 9, has woken other clubs fans up. They expected us to choke as this is their only dart left. Instead we not only win 5-0, but we show the world that we are what I would describe as ‘the most complete club in world football.’ Competitive now. Winning all the stat awards. Defensively incredible. Dominating the midfield. Scoring from every angle and all players. Built for the future as well as the present. Financially sound with plenty of funds and a squad value of over 1 billion. A culture that books will be written about and again, as the Chelsea fan very correctly stated, “A team that plays football for a living.”

People are really starting to notice.

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Firstly, he has more ways of passing a football than any other. I love his ‘lift passes’ when a passing lane is blocked he just lifts the ball over the defenders thigh.

There are only a few players that are worth keeping if they have a history of breaking down. I think Thomas Partey is one. Arsenal are bloody good at almost everything nowadays and so if they can get him the best treatment and rest I’d keep him. Maybe Med Beds aren’t just a rumour but are going to be a real thing and injury and sickness will be healed in a fraction of the time. You may be familiar with black seed oil. It claims to heal ‘everything but death.’ I can attest to it’s miracle working powers. Maybe we need Partey (and Tomi) to take some.

If he was ordinary or similar to other midfielders it would be a silly risk but he is unique. The game has become more intense and midfielders are pressed at high speed. Your first touch can’t just be good. It has to be perfect. Your passing has to be elite because teams are scoring more goals from winning the ball in central areas than ever before.

I say that Arsenal can make money from numerous other sales. I say keep him 1 more year and tell him that he has an opportunity for a new contract if he can stay fitter. I just don’t see a midfielder that can change the game so frequently with such incision and variety in their passing. Perhaps Frenkie De Jong is the only one. If I was Arsenal I’d go for Frenkie and use him as a 6/8 option. I’d sign Skelly Alvero at Werder Bremen and loan him to a team like Brentford for a year because he looks like he has the Partey gene.

Tuesday was a great day that was made even better because we got to watch a midfield genius.


I just put a tweet out saying that I think Odegaard could be the best midfielder in the world. He is at least in the top 5 with KDB, Rodri, Bellingham and Rice.

His toolbox is just so very large. Pressing monster. Assister. Goal scorer. Press resistant. Elite dribbler to retain possession. Fitter than the rest. As Michael from ‘You Are My Arsenal’ stated, he could very easily be statue worthy.

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That list actually encompasses every facet of a footballer. Physical, Mental, Technical and Tactical. He can do all four to an elite level. His only weakness is his body strength. He compares to Fabregas but is arguably better as he has far more energy and defensive willingness. Then you rewind to Paddy V. Just as effective although in a different way. This image sums up my point.

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Those two passes to Kai were what separates him though. Needle threading was much easier when Vieira played. Fabregas too. Low, compact blocks were rare.

In addition to all of this, he walks around the entire stadium after EVERY game to appreciate the fans. Just because he’s captain that doesn’t mean he has to do this. I don’t see any other PL player doing this after every game. He must be an absolute joy to his family. Someone so well rounded who just gets it. I’d bet that bleeds over to his life.

A definite Footballer of the Year contender. We have a few of those.

Leo and Kai:

My friend Chiomba Mutindi made a great point on Twitter. He commented that he loved that they both celebrated against their former teams. More than that was his comment as to why. That in Arsenal they have found ‘home’ and their love cannot be contained. That is a huge compliment to Arsenal and the way they are doing everything.

Kai is starting to force people to have the conversation as to whether we should prioritize a striker in the summer. Many thought it was the most obvious need. I was one of them. I still think we should get an alternative as I’d sell Eddie and move Jesus to a winger and left eight option.

Leo is one that I think most fans argue with themselves over when picking line ups in their head. The truth is though that he makes it so hard to ignore him as he consistently affects the game. Only a fool doesn’t include a player like this in some way because when all said and done, the whole point and primary objective of a big club is scoring and lots of them.

Mudryk has now settled or should’ve settled and you can clealy see the difference in the player we tried to get and the one we actually got. Mudryk is eye catching but more of a YouTube compilation player. Trossard is effective. Consistently. In real life.

Both of Kai and Leo have also hit 10 goals. Very impressive especially for Trossard as he’s played less and further from goal.

Ben White: 

He needed those goals. He’s been guilty of looking at the keeper before he shoots which invariably leads to shooting at him. It probably helped that his first goal gave him no time to think. He is our secret weapon right now. He is inverting and sneaking into the box and often free. Others are single, double and triple marked and he’s alone.

His goal should send a message to coaches. It is more possible than modern football is revealing. We over elaborate rather than use skills from another era like volleying, looping headers, chipping and lobbing. Ben White accidentally showed us that it is most definitely worth volleying it in from there. He made it look easy because it’s not difficult for players of this level. the issue is that too many folks think power is the only way.


I watched the U-21 game and nearly fell out of my swivel chair when Timber hit the postage stamp. I was reminded that he exudes confidence both with and without the ball. I was reminded that he is comfortable on the left, right and as an inverted player. I was reminded that he has this unstoppable ‘stop and go’ way of getting past players or simply deceiving them so they can’t read his intentions. I was reminded of how quick he is. So glad that he didn’t look like he’d lost that.

If we invert from centre back (like City do with Stones) next season I wouldn’t be surprised if we bought a left wing back and Timber inverted from a back three.


The fast start set the tone. A team like Chelsea need to be encouraged to quit and all they need is to concede the first goal and they’d give less. A ‘here we go again’ attitude that teams floating in mid table tend to have. An excuse to give less. We should do the same against Bournemouth and United. Bournemouth are floating and will be willing to quit. Man Utd quit before the whistle blows so if we lose it will just be because of poor finishing.

Sneaky Saliba:

On Ben White’s first goal you will see Saliba physically moving Enzo about 10 yards towards his goal so that Arsenal stay onside. Not everybody in the box is there to score. If they try to then they get in each others way and bring defenders around the player who can actually score. Saliba had obviously been given his task. Well done Jover!

Weight of pass:

One of the differences in Arsenal and most others is the focus on weight of pass. I’m not talking about beautifully weighted through balls but simply regular passing. Most players and coaches don’t value this. If a pass is weighted correctly then the first touch isn’t an emergency and it doesn’t stop the receiving player from putting his first touch where he wants. The greatest value is in giving the receiving player a one touch option. If you fire it at him he doesn’t have this. Players like Partey who want to play it first time need that weight right. This becomes even more important around the opponents goal. Trapping a ball in that intense space means a blocked shot. A softer pass means an open look.

Chelsea had traps set in midfield. Our weight of pass zipped the ball past the traps.

I teach weight of pass to young players by taking them to the footgolf course. So much fun if you can find one near you.

Defending corners:

I don’t really sweat a well delivered corner because we almost never let opponents get the first contact.


The players often say that Arteta is king of the details. Here is one. Watch Gabriel when he gets in a strikers back. If he senses an opponent running off the striker he will sneak around one side slightly so as to stop the striker turning and blocking the pass. Tiny but important detail.

Another detail. For Trossard’s goal notice how Rice’s last touch before the pass was inside so the defender flipped his hips away from Trossard giving Leo an extra second.


When you look at the meaningful stats, almost all of them are in our favour over rivals. This one is hard to attain….

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This one looks like the stat of a championship winning team…..

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This one gives detail to the games against our rivals. Again, looks like the stat of a champion team to me.

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……and we aren’t even close to the highest spending teams.

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One clean sheet every other game. And he missed the first four games.

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Nicholas Jackson:

Maybe this section should be dedicated to Chelsea as their ‘needs’ are far greater.

I remember sitting on the bank at our soccer field watching a game once and the ball hitting the outside of the side netting. A lady jumped up and celebrated. She was clearly new to soccer and didn’t realize that ‘hitting the net anywhere’ wasn’t the point of the sport. I do wonder if she was related in any way to Nicholas Jackson? He really looked like he was trying to put the ball wide. Also, does he know that heading the ball is much better than slapping it with your hand?


Chelsea are an experiment. A football team that is a toy of an American who thinks he’s clever but might just be blowing up such a lovely club. If they don’t sell a bunch of players by June 30th they are going to get a points deduction. If I was interested in a Chelsea player I’d wait until July 1st. They didn’t balance their young squad with experience and bought 341 wingers and 249 centre backs but not an elite striker. They convinced them to come by giving them way too much money and amortized the payments to clubs over the length of the 8 year contracts. They have lots of pace but very little height. Their players were bought based on talent alone. No thought to balance or fit in the line up. I do wonder if Poch left Palmer and Gusto out so he had an excuse with the owner if he got hammered. Might be true.


Red card:
The fact that Jackson’s ankle breaker was early in the game can never be a reason or excuse. The 1980’s reducer tackle. If that creeps back in the game then players will most definitely start trying to hurt each other in the first 10 minutes. People in professional sports are also professional sinners looking for ways to deceive and take advantage of. The tackle was dangerous because of the speed and the location and the fact that it wasn’t even a yellow card is a dereliction of duty. If I had made that decision I’d expect to be fired. Accountability at the PGMOL is like being tickled as punishment.
Now, I know that short crosses aren’t easy to find a target as you are normally outnumbered 2 v 1, but we need to find a way of being more creative in our movement and more disciplined in our decision to arrive. Everything else we do especially in the other box is disciplined but we don’t seem to have the same determination in their box.
Free Kicks:
Not a good stat. Something to improve.
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Did he not see the field because he was taking bites of what looked like a burger on the bench v Wolves. I kid you not. Utterly foolish on many levels.


New GK:
Arsenal are inviting Adam Beaudry for a trial. He is a GK at Colorado Rapids and much sought after.
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I had picked on those in the lower tier for leaving early. Somebody alerted me to the fact that two of the tube stations are closed after a certain time. Perhaps Arsenal could do something about this because it’s affecting the support for the players. When you are beating Chelsea 5-0, you don’t leave for any other reason than you can’t get home if you stay.
Chelsea have a player in Madueke. Very skillful and very quick over 5 yards. He’s at the wrong club.
He is a serious candidate to be our new left back next season. Quick, skillful, strong, smart and got bad hair. He also plays as a very effective right winger on occasion and he’s got the dribbling skill and change of pace to do Saka-like things.
Have you heard of Senny Mayulu? Don’t worry, I haven’t either. Max has though. He is a 17 year old at PSG who started for them yesterday in central midfield. I think many teams wish they had rolled the dice on Warren Zaire-Emery before he became a first team regular. If you break into the PSG team you need to be very good. Also, the French have brought through more wonderful players from the city of Paris than most everywhere else.
The video below is worth 5 minutes of your time, if not just for the first clip which is a thunder blaster with his weak foot. I say ‘weak’ but he is clearly two footed. Looks like a 6/8 capable midfielder with a very well rounded game. Actually played 20 times for PSG already with 5 goals.
Check out this video. You might just be watching the next big thing.


I’ve just seen that Everton have done us a big favour. Not only are Liverpool in a bad spot now but Everton will likely be less motivated on the last game of the season.
I bet Tottenham aren’t looking forward to Sunday.

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6 Responses to If you hadn’t noticed… (Positives Needs & Hopes) [ARS 5-0 CHE]

  1. Adam McD April 25, 2024 at 12:18 pm #

    I think ESR was eating a banana and not a burger haha

  2. GMF April 25, 2024 at 12:53 pm #

    We need a striker. I’ve been a fan of Kai for a while and when he’s in the lineup, all we do is win. But… he’s not the one-touch striker a la Foden, Kane or Salah that we need to get into the Champions League finals or to overcome Man City on a regular basis. You hit on it with your comments about weighting the passes – what good is a perfectly-weighted ball if we don’t have someone who can consistently shoot from that pass? Everybody has good defense when you get into the upper reaches of the PL and CL so you need the striker who is a difference-maker. You can count who they are in the PL on one hand without using your thumb so it’s not easy, but we need a stone-cold killer up front.

  3. Bobby McMahon April 25, 2024 at 3:53 pm #

    Mike – in the days after a game your column is the first thing I look for when I open my email. Great stuff.

  4. Leonardo April 25, 2024 at 8:18 pm #

    Hi, Mike.
    Your column made me feel proud (and lucky) to be an Arsenal fan.
    Keep on the great job!


  5. Chiomba Mutindi April 26, 2024 at 9:54 am #

    Hi Mike! Thanks for the shout out! Great read again…over the last 3-4 games I kept feeling like Rice was fatigued. I didn’t feel that at all this game because Partey was there. This has to be our strongest midfield. I hope the rumors aren’t true about TP5s future at the club. We tend to forget how silky good he is when he is out injured.

  6. allezkev April 28, 2024 at 12:27 pm #

    Great post Mike, I always have to read them twice as they’re so detailed.

    Looks as if Liverpool are gone now, all the guff about a quadruple on Klopps last season a distant memory now.

    Most neutrals are City fans now as Arsenal winning the Prem would just show the ineptitude of their own clubs and be a cause for embarrassment. So nobody is going to help us and everyone is against us – but has it been forever thus.

    The Chelsea result was an aperitif for todays main course. Do they have a rivalry or derby type environment in US sports, you know Red Socks vs Giants?

    95 minutes to go and it’s getting a bit nervy in the AK household, the cats have picked up on it and made themselves scarce. You think that with age that you can deal with it and grow out of it but you can’t, I just dislike Middlesex too much. COYG

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